FFM Bulletin 7/2/10

Minneapolis "free" wi-fi hotspots go live

The City of Minneapolis announced on June 25th that residents and visitors are now able to access the Internet for “free” from 177 “Wireless Minneapolis” hotspots throughout the city.  This is just one of the many benefits that the city claims have been gained as a result of its 10-year contract with U.S. Internet of Minnetonka.  However, since the contract was signed in 2006, the difficult to access wireless service has certainly not provided “free” service to the community’s taxpayers.  

In fact, the city is spending $1.25 annually for access to the wireless network.  In addition, despite U.S. Internet’s private ownership of the wireless network, in 2008 the City of Minneapolis spent an unforeseen $1 million on the purchase, installation, and wiring of new light poles that would be strong enough to support the wireless Internet network’s radios.

As a part of the original contract, U.S. Internet committed to remit monthly payments to the city for a Digital Inclusion Fund(DIF) aimed at promoting affordable Internet access, low cost hardware, local content and training. However, U.S. Internet’s contribution to the fund is based on a percentage of their net profit, and the fund has yet to give out more than an initial $400,000 down payment despite the city’s original projections that the DIF would be worth $1,749,387 by 2010. The failure of the DIF to reach its estimated level as a result of the limited use of the wireless network in the private sector is just one of many obstacles that serves to highlight Minneapolis’ long, expensive, and misguided quest to establish a citywide network.

New FFM Video: High Cost, Low Demand for Northstar Extension

Northstar Commuter Rail has been running from Big Lake to Downtown Minneapolis since November 2009. While ridership has been on par with projections by Metro Transit, taxpayers arestill subsidizing $80 for every $15 round-trip ticket, according to a Freedom Foundation of Minnesota analysis. Yet Northstar officials and policymakers continue to push an extension of the line to St. Cloud, which would have a major impact on taxpayers.

Check out the latest in FFM’s series of Government Accountability videos looks into both the proposed Phase II extension, as well as the current system in place, and shows why proponents of the extension may want to hold off on an extension for now.

Click on the image below to view this video.


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